“Christianity has had, since its inception, countless stories of female ascetics and saints and martyrs in its repertoire, used to repackage its doctrines through melodrama, through lives writ large. What makes these stories different? Perhaps they’re compelling because they evoke a time so close to the church’s radical beginnings and are therefore that much more believable as stories of potential, of a church that could have been. Or maybe it’s because the biographies of Melania, Susan, and Paula became accounts of resistance—of a rejection of how the church, as an official organ of the state, had begun to limit the lives of its women. These are tales of women who walked away from their families, shed their social status, gave away their money as they saw fit, put on the clothes of men, escaped their cities, and traveled out into the desert. They traveled so deep into the desert that they struck the heart of it, the place where people go to be tested. And they faced whatever was there and survived it and were transformed.”
This was a great article, I recommend reading all of it here.